Melbourne winger Ed Langdon has set the stage for an epic grudge match after labelling Collingwood a “one-trick pony” ahead of Friday night’s AFL blockbuster at the MCG.
The Magpies have rocketed to third on the back of a 10-match winning streak, with seven of those victories coming by single digits.
The stunning run of wins included a 26-point victory over Melbourne in round 13.
Melbourne regained their mojo with a 46-point win over Fremantle in Perth last week and Langdon gave the Magpies an unexpected backhand on Thursday.
“Our defence is definitely our biggest strength and to be honest we pride ourselves on making Friday night games pretty boring to watch for the spectators,” Langdon told SEN.
“They (Collingwood) are sort of all duck, no dinner in a sense that if they’re playing fast footy on their terms they’re a very hard team to stop.
“But they’re a bit of a one-trick pony at times.
“So hopefully we can dampen the way they want to play and on the back of that go out and extensively play the way we want to play.”
The comments are sure to fire up Collingwood’s players, with the Magpies leapfrogging Melbourne into second spot if they can snare victory on Friday night.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten claims the club board’s questioning the pursuit of controversial AFL free agent Jordan De Goey is standard procedure.
The board has asked for more information from the football department after the Saints expressed interest in recruiting De Goey.
The Collingwood star’s future is up in the air after the Magpies withdrew a lucrative contract offer amid the fallout from his ill-fated mid-season trip to Bali.
De Goey is a restricted free agent and could be on the move after playing 132 games for Collingwood since his debut in 2015.
St Kilda’s board wants to be sure De Goey would be the right fit before ticking off any list management moves for the 26-year-old.
De Goey has sometimes found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons, including being arrested for his involvement in a drunken incident in a New York club last October. Ratten said the board’s questioning of the football department was not uncommon.
“Like all free agents, we investigate everybody, especially when you’re bringing a high-profile player in,” he told reporters at Moorabbin on Wednesday. “I think all boards ask for information, it’s not different at our footy club to other footy clubs.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re employing new staff members of players, we have to run things past the board and they have the right to challenge and ask questions.
“He’s a very talented player but we’re still working through that.”
It comes as St Kilda face a fight to keep their finals spot ahead of a challenging end to the home-and-away season.
The Saints jumped back into eighth spot after holding off Hawthorn last Saturday for a second-straight victory.
St Kilda head to Geelong on Saturday night to take on the ladder-leading Cats, before Marvel Stadium clashes with top-eight teams Brisbane and Sydney.
But in a major boost for St Kilda, key defender Dougal Howard will be an important inclusion to handle star Cats forwards Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
Howard hurt his hamstring against Carlton in round 16 and has missed the last four matches.
“(Howard) will play for sure, unless something’s gone amiss from the boundary line into the room, he’ll be right to go,” Ratten quipped.
A fortnight on the sidelines has primed Melbourne forward Ben Brown for a big finish to the AFL season as he prepares to return in Friday night’s blockbuster clash with Collingwood.
Brown, who has battled knee issues in recent years, sat out the last two games in an attempt to overcome lingering soreness and has trained strongly this week.
James Harmes (concussion) has also been given the green light to return against the Magpies at the MCG, where second meets third in a contest that will help shape both sides’ top-four prospects.
Sam Weideman is likely to make way for Brown, with coach Simon Goodwin bullish about the 29-year-old spearhead’s prospects of having an impact at the business end of the season.
Brown’s strong finish last year was crucial in the Demons’ premiership success and the tall target has kicked 23 goals in 14 games this season.
“He’s an important player for us,” Goodwin told reporters on Thursday. “You saw what he was able to do at the back end of last year and his form was really trending (upwards) before he went out of the team with his knee (injury).
“He gives us a real focal point, he’s a really smart player, he’s a goalkicker and he maximises his opportunities.
“He said this is the best he’s felt in probably 12 to 14 weeks, so it was a great opportunity to give him some rest and get him some treatment on that knee, and then just to re-load it a bit in the right way.
“He’s feeling 100 per cent and he trained incredibly well the other day.”
Weideman, who has played 10 games this season, kicked three goals in Melbourne’s recent loss to the Western Bulldogs but had just one kick and one mark – plus one goal – in a quiet display in last week’s big win over Fremantle.
“Obviously last week wasn’t the game he was looking for but he’s more than possessions and marks and goals,” Goodwin said.
“He competed incredibly strongly for us and he’s got a process in place about how he takes his game to the next level.”
Collingwood have surged into the top four on the back of a 10-match winning streak, including a 26-point victory over Melbourne in round 13.
Their form has set up a huge Friday night clash with the Demons and Magpies sharing identical 14-5 records, one win shy of ladder leaders Geelong and just one win clear of fifth-placed Brisbane.
“Every game’s a big game but this one no doubt has a bit of a special meaning to it,” Goodwin said.
“It’s second versus third, hopefully 85,000-90,000 at the game, and two teams that are hopefully going to be playing some pretty big games moving forward.
“It’s a great challenge for us, they’re in enormous form and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Collingwood are unsure whether Brodie Grundy will be fit to make his AFL comeback before the finals following the star ruckman’s latest injury setback.
Grundy returned from three months on the sidelines with a knee injury through the VFL last week and was hopeful of breaking into the Magpies’ side for Friday night’s blockbuster against Melbourne.
But an ankle injury suffered at training has thrown up another hurdle for the dual All-Australian ruckman.
Grundy did not train with teammates on Thursday and is unlikely to play at any level this week.
Whether he is fit to play in the Magpies’ last two qualifying matches before the finals – against fellow top-eight sides Sydney and Carlton – remains to be seen. “I was happy with the amount of minutes he played in the VFL but he just pulled up sore,” Collingwood coach Craig McRae told reporters on Thursday.
“Obviously we don’t want that. We want him to be fresh and vibrant and jumping around and bringing his best energy. We’ll just have to assess what it’s like over the weekend.
“Hopefully he pulls up well from that and then we can progress from there.”
Grundy suffered a knee injury in Collingwood’s win over Essendon in round six and has not been seen at the top level since. The ankle concern continues what McRae conceded had been a frustrating run for the Magpies and their first-choice ruckman.
Collingwood this week ruled out Taylor Adams (groin) for the rest of the home-and-away season and McRae declared the tough midfielder will be touch and go for week one of the finals.
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has urged his players to send David Mundy out on a high by producing a barnstorming end to the AFL season.
Mundy announced his retirement during the week, meaning the Dockers have little time to get their act together and ensure the 37-year-old goes out with a flag.
Fremantle are currently mired in a mini form slump, with their home losses to Melbourne (46 points) and Sydney (17 points) coming either side of the draw against Richmond.
The results have seen the Dockers slide to sixth, meaning they will likely need to beat the Western Bulldogs, West Coast and the Giants in the final three rounds to have any hope of snaring a top-four berth.
Longmuir wants his players to use Mundy’s impending retirement as extra motivation, starting with Saturday’s crunch clash with the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium.
“It’s got to be front of mind for our players,” Longmuir said. “He is close to the end, and we need to make sure we put all of our own personal issues and indifferences to one side and see if we can help him achieve what he wants to achieve in his last handful of games.
“Hopefully our players have reflected on that and understand the significance of his decision and can glean some motivation out of it
“We need to make sure we send him out the right way.”
Longmuir insists he won’t be making mass changes following their poor performance against Melbourne where Fremantle managed just five goals.
But forward Matt Taberner is one player who is in grave danger of being dropped after he was held goalless from six disposals against the Demons.
With a number of Dockers players down on confidence, Longmuir feels it’s important he doesn’t make too many changes. “(Wielding the axe) is not really my style,” Longmuir said.
Midfielder Darcy Tucker, who tallied 38 disposals and three goals for Peel on the weekend, is a strong chance to earn a recall. If Taberner is dropped, Sam Sturt could come in and fill the void following his four-goal effort in the WAFL.